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The kids were most certainly not alright in the 2000’s. The 9/11 terrorist attacks shattered the consumer world’s sense of security and prosperity. The resentful malaise brewing throughout the 90’s exploded into more radical forms of expression, ranging from the aggressively theatrical, childishly silly, rabidly energetic, or just shamelessly hedonistic.
The rapid integration of the internet into daily life started to come more into focus; blogs and web forums started to form around music. Some of today’s biggest stars started posting videos online during this early period when virtual platforms like Youtube, Twitter, and Facebook had just been created. This development coincided with the broader process of globalization and economic centralization.
Indie Rock & Electronic
Retroactively (and controversially) termed “Indie Sleaze” in the year 2020, a different type of alternative sound and aesthetic was carved out of the DIY clubs and venues of cities like New York, London, and Los Angeles in the 2000’s. Defined less by music genre and more by attitude, this is where shameless hedonism reared its head. Both indie-rock and electronic music had their space here, such as The Strokes, LCD Soundsystem, Daft Punk, Crystal Castles, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, MGMT, and many more. Pillars of the subculture included partying, sharing music on MySpace, Juergen Teller & Cobra Snake photography, and American Apparel clothing. Popular staples included everything from dark-wash skinny jeans, lamé leggings, metallic bodysuits, striped shirts, and band tees. Accessories ranged from chokers, leather jackets, granny socks, loafers, ballet flats, and long layered necklaces. Smudgey, “effortless” eye makeup, relaxed hairstyles, and side-swept bangs dominated the beauty aspect of the aesthetic. Icons embodying sensibility include Alexa Chung, Alex Turner, Sky Ferreira, and Effy Stonem from Skins (2007-2013). A spontaneous approach to fashion at the time reflected the carefree lifestyle “indie sleaze” promoted. For example, Felix White of the Maccabees would thrift shirts right before their shows, cut their collars off, and tie them around his wrists, “It was this weird, strange ritual that evolved.” A mixture of messy and composed, “Indie Sleaze” took inspiration from both the eighties and grunge and was the seedling of the “hipster” aesthetic that killed its cool factor in the early 2010s. Just in time for the 20-year trend cycle, the subculture has regained popularity thanks to television shows like Skins being available on streaming and new artists like Jockstrap and The Dare assist the revival with modern iterations.
In the 2000’s we saw the rise of a new subculture, the mall goth. The name originated as a pejorative term against “fake” alternative teenagers, who got to sport alternative styles thanks to fast fashion retailers like Hot Topic becoming widely accessible at malls. Due to its commercial origin, mall goths were seen as posers by those “actually” in the scene. It was the 2000s equivalent of being a TikTok e-boy. However, following the release of the movie, “The Crow,” the subculture gained popularity. Many mall goths listened to artists like Slipknot, Marilyn Manson, and Korn. Now, the “mall goth” style is seen as nostalgic.
You saw this a lot with bands like Green Day in their American Idiot Era and Interpol when they were releasing their first album. We’re mainly talking about the black button-up and red tie. Sometimes white and gray are mixed in there as well. This distinctive look integrates the gothic into the professionalism expected of most men in professional industries. In the late 90’s, many films explored the oppressive nature of office environments, and it is possible that this was a way of rebelling against or reconciling with that position. It could also be a natural approach to a more commercial punk look or an attempt to legitimize the political themes within the music.
In contrast to the hyper-theatrical acts like My Chemical Romance, Evanescence, and Slipknot, punk groups were generally more simple with their clothing. There was a large overlap between punk and hardcore within the skating scene, so a lot of the fashion came from that subculture – lots of band tees, polos, and jeans. The simplistic outfit choices were sometimes complemented by more excessive accessorizing with jewelry and spiked hair.
Emo emerged from two other subgenres; post-hardcore and hardcore punk. It would later go on to reinvent itself through alternative rock, indie rock, and punk rock groups. However, emo exploded in the early 2000’s with the success of groups like My Chemical Romance, Fall Out Boy, Panic! At The Disco, Paramore, and Yellowcard. These groups had notable styles that left a lasting impact on pop culture.
Starting with My Chemical Romance, a common trait in their fashion was black with red, as lead singer Gerard Way would mostly wear a black button-up shirt with a red tie. We also cannot forget the iconic outfits in their music video for “Welcome to the Black Parade.” Moving on to Fall Out Boy, bassist Pete Wentz was known for his heavy eyeliner. Lead singer Patrick Stump was known for always wearing different kinds of hats in performances and photoshoots. When it comes to Panic! At The Disco, they were known and are still very well known for their outfits during their “A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out” era, which skyrocketed them to fame. Their hit track “I Write Sins Not Tragedies” lead them to win a 2006 VMAs for Video of the Year. Outfits in this era were very theatrical. You could see this in the music video, where Brendon Urie wore a black top hat, white gloves, skinny black jeans, and long black boots. Finally, Paramore’s Hayley Williams was rocking her signature orange hair at the peak of the group’s success. All these groups had a huge influence on young people at the time, forming the emo subculture as we know it today.
A similar but more peaceful realm of the indie music scene included indie-folk, defined by artists like Belle & Sebastian, Neutral Milk Hotel, of Montreal, Kimya Dawson, and The Moldy Peaches. Films like Juno (2007) and the works of Wes Anderson also informed the look. It was a cross between the nonchalant, casually messy style of the Brooklynite indie-rock crowd and a nerdy, whimsical, 60’s inspired “twee.” Box-pleated skirts, cutesy frocks, cardigans, overalls, knit hats, leather satchels, and jangly, vintage accessories were essential to the twee costume.
Pop was popping in the 00’s, with peak success for artists like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Gwen Stefani, and Kylie Minogue at the start of the decade. The later half was dominated by Lady Gaga, The Black Eyed Peas, Kesha, and more. Pop had a very vibrant style. Pop girls were often seen rocking short crop tops, low-rise jeans and super glitzy accessories. Juicy Couture was popular at the time, so much so that it became Paris Hilton’s trademark. They were also experimental with their hairstyles. Britney stayed with her blonde hair, while rival Christina Aguilera sported her signature red and black highlights, and Gwen Stefani was at one point rocking blue hair.
The early internet assisted in connecting people and forming communities around music, a time before highly individualized algorithms made people feel more isolated than ever. It was instrumental in developing 2000’s music culture (and fashion). Nonetheless, the 2000’s are experiencing a nostalgia-fueled resurgence, spread through social media networks like TikTok. What is interesting is that it is not just one look of the era that’s being revived. It is all of them at once. As stated previously, artists like The Dare are indulging in the reckless, party energy of the mid-late aughts. British girl group FLO sampled Missy Elliot’s 2002 hit “Work It” on their new single, “Fly Girl,” tapping into the early 2000’s, blingy R&B. My Chemical Romance just concluded their reunion tour. No frat party can go without Pitbull’s “Hotel Motel” and the Black Eyed Peas’ “I Gotta Feeling” on its playlist. Photo carousels and video edits of classic 2000’s media receive thousands of likes every day, and you may have noticed an increased presence of low-waisted flare jeans, small handbags, and “going out tops” back in shopping malls. You might have had to urge to go and hang out at your local mall just for the novelty of it, even if you get all your clothes online. The 2000’s are back! What was cringe then is now camp, until it is time to revive the 2010’s.
2000’s section written by Jake Goetz, Katarina Nikolic and Kimberly Martinez.
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